Duke Jordan Trio – So Nice Duke – TBM Records (1982)/ MasterMusic (2014) xrcd24 NT013, 44:53 ****1/2:
(Duke Jordan – piano; Jesper Lundgaard – bass; Aage Tanggaard – drums)
Technology has transformed the jazz industry. Many vintage jazz albums have been revitalized with the advent of hi-res formats, including SACD and digital downloads. A lesser-known (though highly regarded) bebop pioneer, Duke Jordan is the latest to expand his legacy into the new millennium. A talented pianist, he rose to prominence playing with Charlie Parker. In addition to fronting his own ensembles, he played with Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Oscar Pettiford, Art Farmer and Coleman Hawkins. He relocated to Copenhagen in 1978, and continued performing and recording for different labels. His catalog is known for live performances, and one of them has been re-mastered for current release.
So Nice Duke (recorded at a 1982 concert in Nagoya Japan) opens with an imaginative solo piano rendition of “Tea For Two”. Here Duke aptly demonstrates his structured, technical skills and formidable jazz phrasing. In a mere three-and-a half minutes, Duke weaves a classical intensity with uptown supper club sophistication. After the opening crescendos, Jordan initiates a subdued rhythm that has an internal sub-rhythm that creates an organic tension. It is not surprising that he has been compared to Bud Powell. The majestic chord play pushes the boundary of the composition. At 1:40, a quick stride interlude is followed by a tricky, elegant transition that closes with dramatic moodiness. Jordan continues the elegant, swirling performance with a complex take on Hoagy Carmichael’s iconic tune, “Stardust”. He is joined by his band mates on another standard, Richard Rodgers’ “My Funny Valentine”. His meditative resonance is infused with impeccable timing and notation through the first verse and chorus. The next time through, he builds the solo around the melody. Bassist Jesper Lundgaard shines on an extended solo at 4:25. Jordan returns to solo (with a playful riff of “As Time Goes By”) aided by drummer Aage Tanggaard’s hushed brush strokes. The third pop track is “All The Things You Are”. Adopting a gentle swing groove, Jordan unleashes a brisk, finger-snapping run. Nearly ten minutes in length, the trio (as they did on the equally timed “Stardust”) displays cohesiveness and improvisational flair. Lundgaard gets another solo and Tanggaard shines with some nimble drum fills.
So Nice Duke has two Duke Jordan original songs on it. The first is the renowned piece, “Jor-Du”. Written in 1953, it was initially recorded by Clifford Brown & Max Roach. Stan Getz, Chet Baker and Charlie Byrd have covered this bebop classic. Jordan swings with muscular chords. He provides one of the most dazzling solos in the set, comfortable in the bebop swing style. The finish is uplifting and excites the crowd. A later composition, “Kiss Of Spain” is a captivating and festive tango-inspired groove. The complex, syncopated rhythm patterns are complemented by the hypnotic melody. The trio finishes with an evocative rendition of Duke Ellington’s 1934 classic, “Solitude”. Jordan captures the song’s meditative shading with his colorful, understated lead. It is a straight forward homage to Ellington with graceful technique and interpretation. At sixty, Jordan is an expressive pianist.
MasterMusic re-mastered the performance to the xrcd24 format. The process starts at JVC with the analog signal from the mastering console and digitizes it into a K2 24-bit signal. Eventually it is converted to 16-bit prior to CD mastering. (The idea is that, though expensive, it can be played on any standard CD player with decoding…Ed.) The album book has a manufacturing flow chart for more technical detail. The sound is excellent with a vibrant range approaching SACD quality. Most ambient noise is removed and a natural acoustic environment is established.
TrackList: Tea For Two; Stardust; My Funny Valentine; Jor-Du; Kiss Of Spain; All The Things You Are; Solitude